Plans to continue providing short-term respite care at a Lynn home until next spring do not go far enough, campaigners have warned.
Norfolk County Council says it will now use Morley House as a short breaks unit until March next year, rather than this August, following a lengthy campaign.
But the authority says it is still committed to reforming its services and members of the Save Morley campaign group said: “Sadly Morley is not saved, it has had a reprieve.”
A petition against the plan, containing more than 3,500 signatures, was presented at a meeting of the county council’s children’s service committee in Norwich this morning.
The group added: “Whilst we welcome the decision to keep Morley available to those who currently use it for respite or boarding, we are concerned that the authority still intend to cease using it in March 2019 and that families are still to be forced to reassessment in March 2018.
“Such assessments are still under a new criteria of assessment that we consider to be not fit for purpose.
“We believe this change of decision has come because we advised NCC that legal action was imminent and NCC wish to avoid such a challenge.
“Our view is that this decision today has come to stop our challenge within the necessary time frame for judicial review.
“We continue to be concerned that the Morley issue will merely move to another community in Norfolk as the cuts continue.”
But the authority insists it has listened to families who use the service and recognise their concerns.
A spokesman said: “We remain committed to changing the way short breaks are currently provided in Norfolk and our plan to offer more community and family based short breaks services in the future so that we can achieve our ambition of being able to support as many of Norfolk’s children as possible who have additional needs.
“For the future, Break are planning to use their excellent resources, including their staff team, to support children with disabilities who require care with a 52 week placement.
“Regardless of any of these changes, residential respite provision will continue to operate at our remaining units, including Marshfields in King’s Lynn, for those children with the greatest level of needs. And families who are assessed to need overnight respite will continue to receive it.
“The longer transition period will enable us to work with families to ensure we are able to listen and take account of their needs, alongside responding to the wider needs of children with disabilities who are not currently accessing residential and community based short breaks provision.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has also welcomed the extension, which was announced after she met affected families and council officials last week.
She said: “I am concerned about the way these families have been communicated with given that they are in very challenging circumstances so I am extremely pleased that Norfolk County Council has delayed the proposed closure.
“This will allow for greater consultation with families; they do an excellent job of looking after their children and we must support them.”